Denmark and the Netherlands announced over the weekend that they would be the first countries to deliver Western fighter jets to Ukraine, after the United States first gave its blessing to the delivery of F-16s.
Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen said yesterday, Sunday, the President of Ukraine to Volodymyr Zelensky during the visit, that Denmark will donate 19 F-16 fighters to Ukraine.
Frederiksen held a joint press conference with Zelenskyi at Skrydstrup Air Base. At the press conference Frederiksen said that the first six planes could hopefully be sent by the new year. The next eight machines will be delivered next year and the last five machines in 2025.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not give machines to donate exact number. However, according to him, the country is soon replacing the 42 F-16s in use by its air force with more advanced F-35 models.
With this, Ukraine could get up to 61 F-16 aircraft.
Former commander of the Finnish Air Force, Member of Parliament Jarmo Lindberg (collective) tells that such an amount would already be a very significant addition to Ukraine’s defense.
– Finland has 62 fighter jets. We think it’s a fairly significant amount, says Jarmo Lindberg.
The United States, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Romania, Poland and Turkey also have F-16s from NATO countries.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat says that Ukraine needs a total of 128 Western fighters.
– That  is the number we are aiming for. We may reassess the situation as the war progresses, but we definitely need more than a hundred planes to be able to attach them to different air bases, react to different threats and strike different targets, says Ihnat Ukrainska Pravdan by.
Ukraine already has dozens of Russian-made fighters. According to Jarmo Lindberg, their aerodynamic properties are incomparably different from F-16 planes.
– On the other hand, the F-16s have a significantly better fighter radar and their computers are integrated directly into Western weapons.
Ukraine’s ability to engage in aerial combat against Russia will improve significantly when it gets modern radar missiles on its fighter jets.
Technical performance also takes a leap when the fighter’s radar and computers can be harnessed for attacks against Russian radar systems.
If Ukraine is given long-range precision weapons, cruise missiles, then it has its own significance. They can launch these from fighters.
– Yes, these things have an obvious combat technical and tactical significance, says Jarmo Lindberg, the former commander of the air force.
The training lasts at least half a year
In connection with the July NATO summit in Vilnius 11 countries are suitable to start F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots. Denmark leads these trainings together with the Netherlands.
On Saturday, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine It would be Reznikov reported that Ukrainian F-16 pilots training has started. Reznikov did not say when the pilots’ training is supposed to end, but pointed out that the training will last at least six months.
Here is the biggest bottleneck of the entire fighter project.
At the beginning, Ukraine announced 32 pilots for training in Western countries. However, the majority of those willing do not have enough language skills.
– At the moment, it seems that eight passed the language tests and six are going to the first group’s training and two will be reserved, says Jarmo Lindberg.
The actual fighter training begins at the beginning of next year.
– When it takes about half a year, Ukraine will have six pilots capable of flying F-16s by the middle of next year.
There are currently 70 Ukrainians receiving F-16 training in Denmark, Frederiksen said on Sunday. However, not everyone ends up being a pilot, as the planes also need a lot of maintenance personnel to stay in the sky.
Pilots will be trained in Denmark until the training center under construction in Romania is completed.
At some point, the Netherlands will start training Ukrainians precisely with Romania.
Jarmo Lindberg points out that the lack of skilled pilots is a big problem.
– The Danish and Dutch fighters will not help much if Ukraine only has six pilots capable of flying them. They can’t be in the air all the time. You have to rest.
On the other hand, the training received by the pilots guarantees them the ability to use the weapons systems of the fighters tactically at some level.
Air combat is based on flight divisions. A pair of two machines is the minimum. According to Jarmo Lindberg, in western countries, a section of four pilots is the starting point.
Ukraine does not have experienced F-16 pilots to lead the department.
– These six pilots are trained to the level of a wingman to operate on a single plane. Experience doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Learn to walk before you can run.
In addition, it must be resolved where the F-16s will be serviced. It requires a huge number of professionals.
– You can roughly calculate that an hour of flying a fighter requires 4–10 hours of maintenance.
Ukraine must therefore build the entire maintenance system, i.e. spare parts warehouses and maintenance facilities. Another option is that maintenance is outside the country’s borders, but the mechanics and others are trained Ukrainians.
According to Jarmo Lindberg, an alternative is also that the maintenance staff consists of employees of foreign companies with whom contracts are made.
– Then we are in a sensitive political area if the military personnel of the air forces of a NATO country are responsible for the maintenance, says Jarmo Lindberg.
Ukraine also pursued other Western machines
Ukraine has long needed new fighter jets to protect the country’s airspace and support the ongoing counteroffensive.
Earlier in the spring, Poland and Slovakia said they would hand over a total of 41 MiG 29 fighters to Ukraine. Most of the machines have already been delivered.
The Soviet-era planes delivered to Ukraine are outdated in many ways, but Ukrainian pilots are already masters of flying the planes.
In addition to F-16s, Ukraine has also turned its eyes to Swedish Gripens and British Typhoon class fighters. Both manufacturing countries have so far refused to send their own planes to Ukraine, but at the same time have committed to assist in training F-16 pilots.
During his visit to Sweden on Saturday, Zelenskyi heard about significant additional support for Ukraine and the start of production of Swedish CV-90 assault tanks in Ukraine.
Overjoyed at the sight, the president suggested to the Swedish prime minister that it would also be appropriate to send combat fighters, or Gripenes, to Ukraine’s aid.
– Gripen is Sweden’s pride. We would like to share that with Ukraine as well, and we are working on it, Zelenskyi said with a broad smile.
At least for now, Zelenskyi missed out on what he hoped for. Prime Minister of Sweden by Ulf Kristersson according to which the issue of fighter jets can be returned to when Sweden is a member of NATO.
In addition to Sweden, there are Gripen planes in two NATO countries: the Czech Republic and Hungary.
In addition to Britain, there are Typhoon planes in Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria, which cooperates with NATO.
In May, the British Defense Minister Ben Wallace stated that Typhoon planes are not suitable for the needs of Ukraine. He justified his position by, among other things, that hundreds of specialists, engineers and pilots should be sent to Ukraine in addition to the machines.
France has also so far refrained from training Ukrainians to fly French Dassault Rafale fighters. The machines in question are not available in other Western countries and the training requires Ukrainians to have sufficient French language skills.
In addition to the United States, there are also F-18 Hornets that will be phased out in Finland in the next few years in Canada, Spain and Switzerland. However, no country has agreed to give up their Hornets so far.